As the time to count deaths nears an end, the moment is opportune for taking stock of what happened in the past seven days of the Savar tragedy, recognising the achievements in minimising damage and cherishing the good things achieved. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment was the way people helped others without having been asked to do so.
Hundreds of people from around the country came to find their loved ones on the day tragedy struck Rana Plaza. Their number increased rather than decreased in the days following. They came without food, with or without money and not knowing where they would stay.
Many people took up temporary residence under the open sky, in the playground and corridors of Savar Adhar Chandra Model High School and on the premises of Enam Medical College and Hospital. Andha Super Market and Savar Municipality Community Centre also provided free accommodation for many others.
But local people and some organisations also came forward to give them food, water and everyday essentials. Many also offered them hospitality in their homes.
Sheikh Yousuf, a food vendor who lives in Shabujbagh, said, “I managed accommodation for some people in my house since they had nowhere else to go. They came from Gaibandha and three of them were women. Sleeping in the open would have been really terrible for them.”
“They go out in search of their kith and kin early in the morning and stay the night in my house. I left two of my rooms for them,” he added.
Md Kafil Uddin, a motor machinist who works at Amin Bazar, said, “Everyday my wife and I provide homemade food to five to six people. We felt it was our duty to assist them in their time of crisis.”
Many of the people who came in search of their missing relatives were hardly prepared for longer stays since they didn’t imagine how long it would take them to locate their loved ones. They had no food to eat and no extra clothes to change into. They eat if volunteer teams and local people provide them with food and stay hungry if they don’t.
Local people have also been helping the outsiders by giving directions and advice, lending a shoulder of sympathy and understanding, and through other means of support.
However, most of the volunteer teams, some of which were sent by private companies, are closing down their operations as their responsibility in the rescue process is almost over.
Abu Nur Md Arif, a student of the computer science and engineering department of Jahangirnagar University, who is a member of a volunteer team, said, “We came from our department to help these people. But we are running short of money to continue our relief efforts. We are trying to raise more funds for this purpose.”
A volunteer of Walton Group, requesting not to be named, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Most of the organisations have handed over their relief supplies to the rescue team led by the army but these are not going to the people for whom they were meant. Many people are still passing a pathetic time out there.”